My husband Sam, Memphis, and I took a little road trip to St. Louis a few weeks ago. We decided to hit our favorite restaurant, Twisted Ranch http://twistedranch.com/index.html, and one of our favorite stores, IKEA.
While roaming through IKEA, a woman approached us and asked, “Excuse me, where did you get your dog?” Now, this was a first. Normally people are trying to touch, or stare, or even say things like, “that man has a dog so he can be comfortable!” We’ve never heard someone ask where Memphis is from…
So, we moved out of the aisle, and Sam began telling the woman and her husband about This Able Veteran. You see, this organization does tremendous work for our Veterans. Not only do they train service dogs for Veterans, but they also work with the Veterans to cope and process their trauma.
Our knowledge of TAV was pretty simple at first. Since they are a local organization to us (about 20 minutes from our house), we heard of the organization. We supported their fundraising events by purchasing t-shirts, going to paring ceremonies, and even making donations. Volunteers and trainers would be out and about with service dogs in training and we would stop by and see them.
When Sam decided to apply for a service dog we had a lot of conversations about it…we prayed about it. This was a major step in his life, and in his recovery from three deployments (2 to Iraq, 1 to Afghanistan). The military played a major role in Sam’s life, and in his current position with the VA, that role was still a major player in the form of memories, setbacks, triggers, anxiety, the list could go on…
It got so uncomfortable for Sam to be in public, big crowd situations like sporting events, concerts, movies, he tried to fake being comfortable, but he was always sensitive to consider how we, his family, felt, and what we wanted to do. He wore a mask and he wore it well.
Back to that application, or moment to apply–we had a rough family vacation. Big crowd, loud noises, almost claustrophobic in a sense. That was it, it was a major wake up call that in order to function with family or friends, he had to be comfortable in his surroundings and even in his own skin. I remember going back to our hotel that night in tears because there was nothing I could do to make the situation better. Nothing to ease the pain of feeling overwhelmed, remembering missions, thinking of soldiers lost, who never came home. Nothing I could do to take that pain away. I felt helpless…and if I felt that way, well, I can only imagine how Sam felt.
Once we got home from our 4th of July vacation, we had a major talk. Therapy was okay, but was that enough? Breathing techniques were useful, but did they really help? Keeping a coin around to have in hand was nice, but a coin, really? I was not always with Sam 24/7, but surely we could consider a service dog and that would help? So, he dowloaded the application, we talked about it, and in just a few short weeks it was mailed off to the TAV facility…and this is just part one of the process.